“Saint Tekla, who did nothing much and then left.”
It’s my answer to a getting-to-know-you question asked in circles where esoteric knowledge is riffed off more knowledge and a recipe can devolve into a dissertation on the chicken yodeler or whether Sufjan Stevens cries during sex (probably).
These are the miracles of Saint Tekla: She sat by a window for three days. She was sentenced to be eaten by beasts but the female beasts would not let the male beasts eat her. She lived a long time and when she was done she walked behind a waterfall and left.
She was alive, and then she maybe wasn’t, and that’s all. I like that about her.
Lately I’ve found myself in need of other saints.
I’m late to this eulogy, I know. But they started the Bible in 1400 BCE and wrapped it up around 90 CE so I’ve got time.
You’re supposed to begin a story about a saint with her martyrdom. We’ll get there. First I want to tell you about what it was like when I was a kid.
You’ve probably seen movies about being a kid in the 80’s. And it wasn’t unlike that. We had our Breakfast Clubs, our Goonies (I was definitely a Goonie). We played Ninja Turtles or Thundercats or He-Man. And the boys played Star Wars.
I want to be clear about that, because it’s important. If we were playing Ninja Turtles I could be April. Or I could pretend to be a boy so I could be a turtle. The Thundercats had Cheetara, and He-Man had Teela. And you’d think Star Wars would have been a no-brainer with a girl in your gang, but there was something about Princess Leia, you know? She decided who to kiss and when. She led missions. She gave orders. Better to just be Han Solo and Luke, no Leia. If you let a girl play Leia, what happened when she didn’t want to stop?
In Blues Brothers, there’s a character with no name. She does, however, have a rocket launcher. And a grudge.
Carrie Fisher’s website lists her vocations as actor, author, mental health advocate. You’ll note the lack of the -ess suffix. Princess Leia grew up and became General Leia, and along the way she found drugs, eating disorders, and the utter lack of fucks it requires to send an Oscar-winning producer a cow tongue and a warning.
To be fair, it’s more warning than she gave Jake Blues.
I’m usually good at separating actors from the characters they play. I’m usually better about drawing a line between Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia. I rarely grieve when celebrities die.
But I grieve for victims of systems. For martyrs and saints, however unwilling. For the murdered, who are someone’s kin. And Carrie Fisher was, absolutely, murdered.
How can you say it’s not killing us, every day, to be women?
How can you say it’s not, when we starve ourselves to be worthy of rape and catcalls? When we can’t access medicines we need to stay alive, whether they are for mind or body? When most medical studies don’t even include women? When some of us can’t use the goddamn bathroom in peace? We don’t even own our bodies.
“… you know it’s not just a bad picture but a scornful reminder of just how old you’re getting and how fat you’ve gotten— not only a reminder of what you once were but also of what you no longer are and never will be again. And, as if that wasn’t enough, some stranger owns this horrific image and is free to do whatever with it in private or with his friends.” -Carrie Fisher
His friends. Not “their” friends, or even “his or her” friends. You know she was smart enough to make the distinction.
How can that not be murder by inches, a little more poison every day, a little more taken into our veins?
We don’t need more Teklas. We need harpy saints now, saints with claws and rocket launchers and body parts in Tiffany boxes. We need Boudiccas and Raden Ajeng Kartinis, Mirabal sisters and Harriet Tubmans.
I’m going to see The Last Jedi this week with a bunch of techbros, and I’m going to grit my teeth every second Leia’s onscreen because they won’t understand this weird grief that is and isn’t for her and for all of us at once.
And when I get home I’ll light a candle to Saint Carrie of the Rocket Launcher.